North America - U.S.A.

Library of Congress -- Phase1 & 2 --


Asian Reading Room: Japanese collection


2550 McCarthy Mall, Honolulu, HI 96822, U.S.A.


Eiichi Ito
Reference Specialist, Asian Division
Tel: +1 202-707-8054
Fax: +1 202-707-1724

Kiyoyo Pipher
Reference Specialist, Asian Division
Tel: +1 202-707-3541
Fax: +1 202-707-1724

Hisako Rogerson
Senior Cataloguing Specialist
Acquisitions & Bibliographic Access Dir, Asian and Middle Eastern Division
Tel: +1 202-707-2296
Fax: +1 202-707-2824

Size of collection

Rare Books: Approximately 6,000 titles
Manuscripts: 2,200 titles estimated
Single-Sheet Items: 467 maps [Geo. & Map], 1,800 estimated printed materials
Prints & Photographs : Available for researchers' viewing / examination .

Collection description

In 1905, Crosby Stuart Noyes, journalist and editor of the Washington evening star donated 658 illustrated books, including books from the mid-18th century to the late-19th century as well as watercolors, drawings, woodblock prints and lithographs. Single prints are now in the custody of the Prints and Photographs Division, while the illustrated books are kept in the Asian Division's Japanese Collection. A systematic effort to acquire Japanese books was undertaken in 1907 when Dr. Kan'ichi Asakawa of Yale University purchased 9,072 volumes (over 3,000 titles) of books in Japan on behalf of the Library. Asakawa's selections included works on Japanese history, literature, Buddhism, Shinto, geography, music and the arts. In the 1930's, Dr. Shiho Sakanishi developed the collection into a first-rate resource for scholars, tripling its size.

Today, rare books in the Japanese Collection include the Hyakumant? dharani prayer charms, which date to 770 A.D. and are among the earliest surviving printed material in the world. Also noteworthy is a complete edition of the Japanese literary masterpiece Genji monogatari, illustrated woodblock printed book published in Kyoto in 1654 and the other manuscript hand-copied in the latter Muromachi period (1336-1568), the Yoshitsune azuma kudari monogatari, printed on movable type between 1624 and 1643, and the Kabuki sugatami, written by the kabuki actor Nakaz? Nakamura in 1776. The collection includes materials in almost all subjects. The major subjects include history, military science, Buddhism, medicine, and geography. Japanese mathematics – 404 titles, Japanese literature and performing arts – 628 titles, Japanese art – 309 titles as indicated in Shōjō Honda's bibliographies. In addition, the Law Library has approximately 30 titles of rare materials; and the Geography and Map Division has 467 rare Japanese maps: 146 flat maps, 101 shelved maps (mainly accordion fan folds and 4 scrolls), 13 atlases, and 207 large-scale map sheets in the Tadataka Inō series.

Access to bibliographic data

A)Online catalogues
Library Catalog Library Catalog 5,915 records for Japanese Rare Book Collection as of 07/19/2013
see also OCLC

B)Printed catalogues

  • Beikoku Gikai Toshokanzō Nihon Kotenseki Mokuroku Kankōkai, ed. Beikoku Gikai Toshokan zō Nihon kotenseki mokuroku = Catalog of Japanese rare books in the Library of Congress. Tokyo: Yagi Shoten, 2003.
  • Honda, Shojo. Pre-Meiji works in the Library of Congress: Japanese literature, performing arts, and reference books. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1997.
  • Honda, Shojo. Pre-Meiji works in the Library of Congress: Japanese mathematics. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1982.
  • Honda, Shojo, and Sandy Kita. Pre-Meiji works on Japanese art in the Library of Congress: a bibliography (forthcoming).

How can researchers gain access to the material?

The prospective user of rare material(s) should be engaged in serious research. The researcher is required to obtain an LC Reader Registration ID Card in LM 140 before visiting the Asian Reading Room. Request rare materials in the Asian Reading Room and fill out the form "Library of Congress Reader's Registration for Use of Rare Material" and sign the "Asian Reading Room Reader's Registration and Agreement to Comply with the Rules for Use of Rare Materials in the Library of Congress." Please contact the Asian Division for more information about our rare book policies.

Select bibliography of publications about the collections (books, articles)

  • Kuroda, Andrew. "A history of the Japanese Collection in the Library of Congress, 1874-1941." In Senda Masao Kyōju koki kinen toshokan shiryō ronshū. 281-327. Tenri-shi: Senda Masao Kyōju Koki Kinenkai, 1970.
  • Library of Congress Asian Collections: an illustrated guide. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 2000.
  • Library of Congress Asian Collections: 2007 illustrated guide, 28 December 1997.
  • . Sumiyoshi, Tomohiko. "Beikoku Gikai Toshokan zō Nihon Denrai Kanseki Mokuroku Chōhen. Shidō Bunko Ronshū (41): 201-207 (2006).
  • Tsuji, Hideko. "Beikoku Gikai Toshokan 'shikka': kaisetsu to honkoku." Seitoku Daigaku kenkyū kiyō. Jinbun Gakubu (5): 169-180 (1994).
  • Tsuji, Hideko. "Beikoku Gikai Toshokan 'shikka.' Ge: kaisetsu to honkoku." Seitoku Daigaku kenkyū kiyō. Jinbun Gakubu (6): 99-110 (1995).
  • Oyler, Elizabeth. "Japanese Cultural Treasures at the Library of Congress: Digitization of the Rare Books Collection." Journal of East Asian Libraries (143): 11-22 (2007).

Other Relevant Information

Prints & Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) for single-sheet printed material
Nara Ehon : Shizuka, Shigure, Homyo Doji, and Soga Monogatari. Genji Monogatari
Online Map Collections

Is reproduction of the material permitted ?

The Library has been working on several digitization and microfilming projects for rare materials. Copying of rare materials by researchers is not normally permitted. Surrogates of rare materials are provided when available. Reproduction policies vary with Divisions (Asian, Geography and Maps, Prints and Photographs, etc.).